iEngage, an effort of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem to strengthen the dialogue between Israel and world Jewry, marked Israel’s 64th anniversary of independence by asking its contributors to describe what they are celebrating on Yom Ha’atzmaut 5772. Their answers display the range of achievements in Israel over the past year and decade, and provided a counterpoint to messages of anxiety and even dread that are too often part of the Jewish conversation.
Former Israeli diplomat Tal Becker is celebrating the people of Israel — anti-authoritarian, contrary, improvisational. They can be infuriating, he writes, but it makes for “a vibrant, passionate, feisty society where my children grow up believing, with a real measure of legitimacy, that they can be agents of change in this world.”
For sociologist Steven M. Cohen, it’s about Jewish nationality and seeing “Jews worldwide and throughout history as an extended family, one that extends backward and forward in time, and embraces even those with whom one profoundly disagrees.”
Yossi Klein Halevi, a keen analyst of Israeli politics, offers a surprising tribute to Israel’s music, perhaps “the great cultural achievement of the Hebrew renaissance.” Once dominated by Ashkenazi artists, Israel’s music scene “now reflects the country’s ingathering of cultural traditions.”
Law professor Suzanne Last Stone and historian Gil Troy both write of a physical connection to Israel, its sights, smells, tastes, and sounds. And Yehuda Kurtzer, president of the Hartman Institute of North America, celebrates, above all, the ability of today’s Jews to be part of “Jewish history in the making.” Say what you want about the ongoing argument that is Israel and Zionism — Left vs. Right, religious vs. secular, dove vs. hawk — each of us has the blessing and opportunity to take part in a “conversation about what Jewishness should mean inside and outside a sovereign framework, and one that is not just about aspirations and ideals but is tested on a daily basis, a conversation about ideals with implications for realities.”
However you celebrate, here’s wishing Israel a glorious 64th year, and many, many more.